In today's episode, we're going to talk all about cold calling, email blasts, and trade show booths.
So it's interesting that in a podcast that's all about differentiation, competitive positioning, thought leadership, sales cycle acceleration, and revenue growth, we’re going to talk about tactics that are largely viewed as traditional, interruption marketing.
Why? Because in many ways, people that are in a business development, sales, or marketing role are still very actively engaged in making cold calls, sending out email blasts, and exhibiting at trade shows with booths. If you are still investing in these kind of strategies, today’s episode is all about making sure that you've really thought through how to be more relevant to the modern buyer's journey in a digital-first world.
Modernizing Cold Calling
So first up, when you think about cold calling, do this against the backdrop of knowing that you have
- National Do Not Call registry -- which is relevant at least on the business to consumer side (B2C), and in some places on the business to business side (B2B)
- Call blocking on Android and iOS smartphones -- If your number gets caught in the crosshairs of someone that's believed to be a cold caller, basically a phone spammer, mobile device users will be warned in big red letters that your cold call is likely to be spam. Today, smartphone users can accept or reject that call. In the near future, expect that the option won't exist. Guilty until proven not guilty.
- Caller ID -- Think about the last time you actually answered a call on a landline or smartphone without looking at caller ID. Think about where we are today and how most people react to this information. Sure there's all the trickery that you can do with spoofing being local and everything like that. But most people have gotten wise to that as well.
- Phones are disappearing from desks -- There’s a general trend among knowledge workers in office environments where you're seeing a lot of phones actually disappearing from desks altogether.
Why So Many Cold Calling Campaigns Suffer from Low Interest Levels and Poor Timing
Now when you're making a cold call, even if you have the best of intentions, and you’re using a really targeted list -- even if you perceive that this person should have a really strong fit with your company's value proposition, in other worlds, this person is similar to your ideal buyer persona, there tends to almost always be low levels of interest.
In a lot of ways, you may be suffering from bad timing. When digital marketing is planned and managed correctly, and you're thinking about things like buyer persona and the buyer's journey -- the active research process someone goes through in between when that person first starts looking into a problem, struggle, challenge, or a goal and when that person actually makes a purchase -- it's extremely unlikely that your cold call is going to nail the timing.
So at the absolute minimum, there is going to be low levels of interest simply because the timing is off. The real questions:
- If your cold calling strategy is botched or half-baked, are you living in a time warp from 10 or 20 years ago?
- And Is this really the first impression that you want to make on a prospect?
You're literally chasing this prospect. For many kinds of business models, this approach is simply bad positioning and kills the possibility of a trusted adviser relationship, or being perceived as a thought leader or as a subject matter expert.
Now, granted there are ways to use phone calls to still achieve many of those same goals around differentiation, promoting thought leadership, and improving competitive positioning -- all that good stuff. But with traditional cold calling, not so much!
The Cold Calling Assist with Website Conversions
So are there ways that you can identify specific contacts, prospects, or leads that you want to connect with in a way that you can actually add value?
For starters, one of the easiest ways to do that is if your website is already generating leads. In other words, you have website conversions. That's not a cold call.
It's more like, “Hey Bob, It's Joshua over at SP Home Run. I saw that you were just on our website and registered to get our free eBook on ‘10 Ways to Get Better Leads.’ I just wanted to check in and make sure: Did the eBook download OK for you?”
Again, that's not a cold call. Bob knows that he was just on your website to get your company’s free eBook. And you're just calling to make sure that Bob got what he wanted.
So you're actually being helpful (or at least making a sincere effort).
And then unless Bob is extremely reserved (which does happen!), it's a very natural segue to ask, “Hey that’s great! Glad to hear you were able to download the eBook. By the way, what we're looking for help with? What brought you to us in the first place?”
This is certainly one way to make a cold call much warmer because you've already identified a lead -- somebody that was on your website. Somebody that got enough value from your information and said, ”Wow! This content is really good. What else do they have to say? Oh, cool there's an eBook that goes into this in more detail. Yeah, I'll tell them who I am in return for getting access to that eBook because they've already built up enough trust and started to educate me based on the non-gated content (really helpful blog articles and videos).”
So you can much more easily warm the cold call by leveraging your website conversions.
Inbound Companies and Cold Calling
Besides website conversions, cold calling can also be improved by tapping into information on inbound companies -- even when the visitors themselves from these companies remain anonymous.
By using software that leverages reverse IP address lookup, along with domain name server (DNS) WhoIs information, inbound companies can be mined from your website visitor logs.
Inbound companies are indications that someone, or multiple someones, from a company has been to your website at a particular date and time. And this person or persons looked at these five or six pages. Then somebody else from that same company came back a couple of days later and also looked at these five or six pages.
When you’re aware of the data from these inbound companies, you start to get a sense of what kinds of topics, problems, and challenges that this particular company is looking to solve.
So that's a pretty natural outreach; at least one that’s not quite as cold.
Trigger Events and Cold Calling
Besides website leads and inbound companies, cold calling can be improved by paying attention to relevant trigger events.
These are nuggets that you saw in the news, generally positive news promotions about new hires, new locations, new awards, and similar positive public relations types of news.
For trigger events, you could also be monitoring conversations on social media; looking for certain mentions of your company or competitors, or mentions of industry keywords or #hashtags.
So those are some ways that you can warm up the call so that it's not so cold. So that it doesn't box you into a corner of positioning you as somebody that's desperate and chasing that contact.
The Value of Lead Research When Cold Calling
And be sure to invest a few minutes in some lead research before you even pick up the phone.
Lead research gives you a tremendous leg up, so you can add value right out of the gate rather than just demanding value.
In other words, while there is something to be said for getting to that person relatively quickly, does it really take that long to do a quick Google search and look at the first two or three results? Does it really take very long to pull up that person's LinkedIn profile and scan it for 30 to 60 seconds? Of course not!
That way, you're thinking of something that you can add value with right out of the gate.
And yes, phone calls can still very powerful, but in many ways and contexts -- especially among small- and medium-sized businesses in South Florida, phone calls are just being used so wrong for old-school interruption marketing; being used as harassment, attempting to beat prospects into submission, more than helping people in the modern buyer’s journey.
Rethinking Email Blasts
So aside from cold calling, email blasts can also be rethought to be more relevant to the modern buyer's journey in a digital-first world.
For starters, email can be very powerful, but “blasts?” Not so much. “Blast” is almost like a four-letter word for the digital marketer that's clued into buyer personas, buyer's journey mapping, segmentation, and personalization.
Now in the same way that the decks are stacked against you being a lazy cold caller, the decks are also stacked heavily against you being a lazy email blaster. Why?
- Email filtering -- where a lot of commercial email that you didn't have permission to send in the first place is automatically going to someone's bulk or spam filter. Even under the best scenario, you could have someone that you do have a relationship with -- that perhaps subscribed to your newsletter, downloaded your eBook, or came to your lunch and learn events -- or perhaps is even a customer. And it's still getting increasingly difficult to get your email message into that person's email inbox.
- Gmail Priority Inbox -- in addition to a difficult environment with email filtering, there’s also Gmail Priority Inbox -- which makes it even more difficult to get to not just someone’s inbox, but their Priority Inbox. You need to have a relationship with that person, to be in their contact list or address book.
- Email sender reputation -- It takes a lot of work to build up your email sender reputation, which can also be destroyed relatively quickly.
- LinkedIn connection exporting and email spamming -- One way that email blasters destroy their email sender reputations very quickly: email blasters connect with lots of people on Linkedin; prospects, customers, influencers, decision makers, and potential referral partners. After all, LinkedIn is the defacto B2B professional networking platform with over 500 million users. While LinkedIn allows you to export account data -- including the email addresses of all of the people that you're connected to -- this feature is often abused. The original thought behind this feature; LinkedIn wanted to make it easy for you to send one-off, very customized emails to people through your email client such as Gmail or Microsoft Outlook. What does the lazy email blaster do? They don't send one-off emails. The lazy email blaster imports all of their LinkedIn connections by CSV file into their email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation (MA) software. Then the lazy email blaster automatically subscribes these people to whatever they feel like subscribing them -- with no regards to permissions, segmentation, or personalization. Basically, the email blaster thinks everyone else is a spammer except themselves.
Understanding the Risks and Ramifications of Emails Blasts
But let’s be clear -- when email is being used in the modern buyer's journey to try to attract strangers, you're spamming people.
And the problem with doing that? You can do a lot of damage in a few minutes that can take a very long time to recover from:
- Your email or marketing automation provider now lumps you in with the bad guys -- For starters, somebody that's feeling a little grumpy and overwhelmed is going to hit the Spam button in their email inbox. This immediately sends a message to your email service provider or marketing automation provider that you are one of the bad guys. Do you really want to be perceived as one of the bad guys with your own software vendor?
- Email sender anti spam clearinghouses -- Then, there’s the coalition of all email service providers, internet service providers, domain registrars, and marketing animation providers. They all hang out together and share the information about good guys and the bad guys. Unfortunately because of your bad judgment with email blasting, your entire company at the domain name level is red-flagged as one of the bad guys.
- Terms of service violations and ramifications with suspension of service and fines -- You've likely violated the terms of service (TOS) of your email service provider or marketing automation provider. So your provider reserves the right to disable your account without advanced notice, suspend your account, and fine you financially.
- Exposure to civil liability -- I’m not an attorney and don’t play one on TV. Email blasters should get their own legal advice. But that same someone that received your email and hit the spam button -- the same kind of person that's really grumpy can even take civil action against your company in different states, provinces, or countries for sending unsolicited email where there's no basis whatsoever for being able to prove that your message was sent in good faith, to somebody that you had an established relationship with.
- Loss of LinkedIn relationship and blocking -- That perturbed person is also more than likely going to jump back over to LinkedIn, realizing where that email came from and how you got their email address in the first place. That person will now disconnect from you on LinkedIn and block you. So it's totally game-over with that relationship and possibly with that person’s coworkers as well.
That is not the way to be doing email marketing in a digital-first world, in the modern buyer's journey. And this scenario is usually what one thinks of when hearing people using the word “blast” in the same conversation as email marketing. There’s no permission, no segmentation, and no personalization.
One-Off Emails to LinkedIn Connections vs. Email Blasting
Now, it’s no big deal to send a one-off email to somebody, once in a while, and say, “Hey Bob! I see that you and I are connected on LinkedIn. It looks like we're both from the same area and belong to some common groups. It looks like we even used to work at the same company many years back. I just wanted to give you a quick heads-up. We're hosting a webinar next week for CEOs just like you that I think you'd get a lot of value from attending. Here's the landing page to learn more and register. We'd love to see you there. “
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sending an email message like that every once in a while.
There is something hugely wrong with putting that person into your email nurturing sequence or subscribing that person to your email newsletter list that sends that kind of message repeatedly -- especially when that person gets your email, scrolls down to the bottom of that email message, and sees that he’s now in a database ,on a list, and going to be getting emails from you repeatedly. So that kind of email blasting is being used totally wrong in the modern buyer's journey: to attract strangers and basically spam people.
What’s the Opposite of Email Blasting?
More enlightened email marketing, which aligns with the modern buyer, can be very effective for lead nurturing and sales cycle acceleration -- when used with contacts that you've already established a relationship with, when those contacts converted on your website.
And it's a really simple relationship to build up:
- OK, here's the eBook that you wanted to download. (no delay)
- Did it download OK? (wait a few hours)
- People that downloaded that eBook also get a lot of value from... (next day)
- Because you downloaded that eBook, we should connect on LinkedIn (a few days later)
By referencing that somebody has given you affirmative permission to begin that relationship, this kind of email is an entirely different ballgame than taking it upon yourself to use, to abuse, that information that you scraped from basically connecting with somebody on LinkedIn.
Email Marketing Done Right
When email marketing is done correctly, your email messages are highly segmented and highly personalized by buyer persona and lifecycle stage.
This kind of campaign can be great for
- Lead nurturing -- educating, building trust, and sales cycle acceleration
- New customer onboarding -- customer marketing, sharing helpful tips and hints with new customers that have just come onboard with your company
Again it's absolutely critical that your email be segmented by
- Buyer persona -- who they are
- Buyer's journey stage or lifecycle stage -- basically where they are in their relationship with you and your company
When you segment by those two variables, you will have infinitely greater success than blasting when it comes to digital in the modern buyer's journey -- and being relevant to the way that people actually research and make purchase decisions today.
Personalization is absolutely critical.
Every email that you send should have one single goal
Remember that email blasting in general goes against every single trend and success story in digital transformation with respected, household names like Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, Uber, and iTunes.
All of these platforms are heavily built on extreme segmentation; segmentation of one where you're literally not even part of a segment -- the segment is so tight that you are the only single person in that segment.
So that platform not only knows everything that you've explicitly done with that service but is also able to infer a whole bunch of other conclusions based on what it knows about other people that are just like yourself.
Updating Trade Show Booths to Be More Relevant
We've talked about ways to modernize and get more mileage in a digital-first world out of phone calls and emails. This way, you won't make the mistake of banging your head against the wall with cold calling and email blasts.
One final strategy that many people need help modernizing: sponsoring a trade show booth: what to do when you're exhibiting at a trade show.
To set the stage, let’s think about why people go to trade shows:
- Continuing education -- Workshops. Breakout sessions. And similar learning opportunities.
- Professional networking -- to make contacts with peers, influencers, and potential customers. to catch up with and meet in person with new customers
- Visiting booths of exhibitors and sponsors-- oftentimes a distant third priority and frankly, for a lot of people, if they ran out of time because their schedule was completely taken up with continuing education and professional networking and they didn't get around to visit trade show booths, they wouldn’t be too upset. The trade show producers know this too. This is why you see many shows having blocks of time when the trade show expo floor is open, but no educational sessions are scheduled. And the expo hall is the only place where food and drinks are available. So when you’re bored, hungry, or thirsty, all of a sudden the expo floor looks all that more inviting!
When someone is trying to cost-justify attending a trade show with their boss, the justification is likely being made based on continuing education and perhaps some professional networking time if someone’s job is related to sales, marketing, or business development.
Now granted, there's a lot that can be learned from visiting booths. The reality though is that in a digital-first world -- where most buyer's journeys are now starting with somebody asking a question or looking for a problem, solution, challenge, or goal on a search engine or a social media channel -- the likelihood of a person just like that putting a pin in it, putting a cork in it, and waiting a couple of weeks or a couple months until the trade show rolls around, to advance their buyer’s journey is slim to none. The world and the modern buyer’s journey just moves way too fast.
Examining the State of Trade Show Booth Investments
That’s why you see droves of small- and medium-sized businesses, including in South Florida, that used to make big investments in trade shows now rethinking those trade show booths. Why? In many cases, they’re reallocating those investments towards more digitally-relevant and more accountable initiatives that support the modern buyer's journey.
If your company is still heavily invested, ask yourself:
- Are you measuring what you're getting?
- Are you measuring your cost per lead? Your cost per sales opportunity?
- Are you tracking where leads, sales opportunities, and clients are coming from?
- Are there unique opportunities that you're getting from exhibiting at that trade show booth that you’d have no other way to generate if you weren’t there?
- How important would this particular trade show booth investment be if your company were doing everything that it needed to with its differentiation, thought leadership, competitive positioning, and sales cycle acceleration? All the things that it needs to do anyway, to be competitive in a digital-first world -- where your ideal clients are asking tons of questions all day long on Google, Bing, Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Think about the general direction with the way that the world is headed, and more specifically the general behaviors of your ideal buyer personas. And again these thoughts should always be validated by doing actual buyer persona research.
But If you're continuing to invest in trade show booths, how can you get better results with the modern buyer?
Again, this is the modern buyer who is basically addicted to their smartphone, who uses social media and search engines all day long, who is literally walking by your booth with their head down buried in their smartphone -- checking vendors out on their smartphone and not even making eye contact with you anymore.
What can you do in that context to have a more successful trade show booth investment?
Your Trade Show Booth Action Plan
Well for starters, there are a bunch of things that you need to do before the show. And I'm not talking about a couple of hours or a couple of days before the show. I'm talking about literally months before the show.
So if you're listening to this episode and you have a trade show coming up next week, you may be too late.
But if you have a trade show coming up in six months to a year, or you're thinking about repeating what you’ve done in the past, here are some good guidelines of what to prepare for before the trade show.
Before the Trade Show
- Make sure that you have built out buyer personas for your most important core kinds of clients that you want to attract to your business -- A buyer persona again is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and some select, educated speculation. Why are buyer personas -- especially designating your primary and secondary buyer persona -- so important in this context? If a trade show does not attract your two core buyer personas, why the heck are you exhibiting at that trade show? Seriously, once you have identified who your primary buyer persona is -- your most important economic buyer -- and your secondary buyer persona -- your second most important economic buyer, if those two groups are not there in droves, why are you making this huge investment to exhibit at this trade show? If your well-built out buyer personas coincidentally line up with the trade show investment that you're making, you may be on the right track. If they don't, you may be on the wrong track.
- Set revenue-focused goals for what you're looking to accomplish at the trade show -- and in the weeks and months that follow, depending on your average sales cycle length
- Build or update your library of remarkable, educational content for your primary and secondary buyer personas -- Why? Your main goal at the trade show should be to build relationships with people that become huge evangelists of your remarkable, educational content Your content should help your buyer personas self-propel themselves with record speed through your sales cycle, as a result of you really understanding the buyer's journey that somebody like that person goes through. The challenge, however, is that you don't know when somebody gets to your booth where that person actually is in their buyer's journey -- which is all the more reason why you need content for Awareness-stage, Consideration-stage, and Decision-stage members of each buyer persona. Otherwise, there's really not a valid reason for you to go to that trade show unless you're convinced that every single person you ever come into contact with is immediately going to be Decision-stage, sales-ready, and open to an aggressive and immediate closing attempt. Seriously! And there would never be a case where somebody is just looking for information on broad-based struggles, challenges, problems, or goals to accomplish even before that person knows that your product category, let alone your company exists. And there would never be a case where someone is just starting to compare their different options.
- Build targeted social media reach -- preferably that lines up with the people that you want to visit your booth at the trade show. Even better, use the show’s #hashtag and mobile app to begin networking with and booking meetings with attendees in the weeks leading up to the show.
At the Trade Show
- Cement your thought leadership status -- Do not give out swag unless it also has a thought leadership component to it -- meaning somebody is getting your book, registering to watch your webinar recording, taking your ROI calculator for a spin, or playing your persona-specific quiz game. Make sure that whatever fun, nifty, or cool shenanigans you have in mind for your booth actually aligns with an early stage (Awareness) or a middle stage (Consideration) problem that a buyer persona expresses, when it leads that person to your company's products and services.
After the Trade Show
- For everyone that visits your booth, be sure get their contact information and figure out (a) which buyer persona each person is and (b) where each person is in the buyer’s journey -- When you get back to the office, or preferably even sooner, each person needs to get enrolled in the right workflow automation sequence for who they are and where they are in the buyer's journey. Most will need to be nurtured. Some leads -- at the Decision stage -- should be immediately forwarded to sales.
So that's the best way to approach your trade show booth planning -- before, at, and after the show.
Right out of the gate, you need to be able to segment and nurture those leads that were captured to continue to educate, build trust, and accelerate those leads into sales opportunities.
Again, if you're still exhibiting at trade shows:
- Does that event line up with your buyer personas?
- Do you have goals?
- Do you have thought leadership content that supports those buyer personas and your goals?
- Are you building up your social media reach to support all of that?
- Is your booth largely about positioning your company as the definitive experts on the kinds of problems that you solve and how you uniquely see the world?
- (And after the show) Are you ready to segment and nurture leads even further to educate, build trust, and accelerate sales opportunities? So you can flag who needs immediate sales contact vs. who needs to be nurtured more.
The Bottom Line on Cold Calling, Email Blasts, and Trade Show Booths
In this episode, you’ve learned how you can modernize your approach to cold calling, email blasts, and trade show booths -- to be a heck of a lot more relevant to a digital-first world and the way that modern humans now research and make purchase decisions.
I'm so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast. I am Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the South Florida CEO Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.
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